Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NU’s Full Schedule Released: What’s the Problem(s)?

Northwestern released the full basketball schedule today. It features 29 total games (2 less than last year) and only 1 or 2 games in the non-conference schedule against BCS conference opposition. Based on last season the best team NU will face is Georgia Tech who NU plays in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. However, this year’s Georgia Tech team will be lacking a trio of key players from last year’s squad. In point of fact, Georgia Tech might still be NU’s toughest opponent, but I’m actually more worried having to start the season on the road at Northern Illinois. It just seems the type of game Northwestern could lose. Perhaps that’s a negative attitude, but it’s brought on by years of Northwestern fandom. Bottom line, though, while NU’s non-conference opponents aren’t the basketball equivalent of the 1927 Yankees (some are more like 1962 Mets) NU has a great chance to go 11-0 in non-conference play. Of course, NU was 10-2 to start last season and failed to do enough in the Big Ten to make the tournament. NU was 9-0 in 93-94 and ended up in the NIT that year as well. Hopefully, history doesn’t repeat itself this season.

Reading the message boards a number of fans are upset at the schedule. I don’t love it either, but I am a little frustrated at the number of people who simply can’t wait to place blame regarding anything related to NU basketball. Some will say I’m being too kind or that I’m too far in the pro-Bill Carmody camp, but I think anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I’ve had no problem calling out Carmody for what I’ve seen as poor in game decisions. However, I do have a problem calling out Carmody, Jim Phillips, or anyone else for something I can’t judge. I can go to a game or watch it on TV and say what I would have do in the same situation the coach faces. We as fans have no idea what went on behind closed doors when Carmody and Phillips tried to setup this schedule. For all we know NU called Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and UCLA to try and setup games but were turned down by all four. That might not be the case, but we really don’t know. It could be. I’d think that Carmody would have preferred a more competitive schedule, but it is a pretty well known fact that coaches hate playing Princeton Offense teams because they have to alter practice for a couple days before the game. Coaches hate altering practice for even five minutes, if they have to alter it for five days they’re on the verge of panic.

Another problem besides NU running the Princeton Offense is that NU is actually decent enough they can beat you on your home court, but you don’t get anything back for beating them. Say NU went to Kansas and Kansas beat NU 101-64, nobody would be surprised. People would say that’s what Kansas should have done. Now, say NU goes to Kansas and NU wins 70-68. People will want Bill Self fired. Face it, NU gets no respect. All the ‘Cats are to good teams is a game that they should win and that if they don’t might cause the coach to be seeking other employment (see: Steve Alford).

A third problem for NU in scheduling is NU isn’t really a draw on the road. Nobody is going to show up just to see Northwestern. Therefore, some teams probably don’t want NU for a home and home, but as a Big Ten team NU can’t except going someplace 2-for-1 nor can they take a buyout game. Some of you will say NU should do so, when rumors existed Notre Dame offered NU a 2-for-1 in football a few years back I said the same thing, but really if NU wants to be a big time Big Ten program they can’t take the same deal teams give San Diego State or Air Force.

Sometime in the future I’ll really look at what this schedule means, but I think what it means is that NU needs to somehow rack about 21 wins before the Big Ten Tournament in order to make the Big Dance. A 21-8 record should be enough with the strength of this year’s Big Ten.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

NU goes 4-0 and 1-0

The Wildcats ended a solid Italy trip with a 77-55 win today. That also ended a solid weekend for NU sports which featured a 1-0 start to the football season. I'll make a quick football rant and then get into the basketball. Okay, so Dan Persa is awesome, I knew he would be because he just sounded like the type of kid who you win with. He brings everything you want to the table and more. However, he got no support from his runningbacks and pretty much was the NU offense. If Northwestern had a halfway decent running back I think Persa would put up numbers which would make him a legit All-Big QB if not a dark horse for the Heisman. As it is, I think he'll be good and NU will go a decent bowl, but some games will be lost because NU can't run the ball. Other websites and other people have ideas why NU's non-Persa running game is so poor and they're all interesting to read, but the bottom line I think is it is a combo of players and plays called. Walk-on Jacob Schmidt is NU's starter at tailback. That's not good. I'm not trying to disrespect Schmidt and I know he'd smoke me in the 40-yard dash, but when it comes to playing runningback in the Big Ten, I just don't think he hits the hole quick enough. Really, only Persa looks like he can get to a hole. Simmons and Fields might be quicker than Schmidt, but they didn't seem to attack openings like Persa or past NU backs like Autry (x2), Wright, Herron, Sutton, Anderson, or even Omar Conteh.

Now, on to basketball. NU won the last two games on their tour. The 3rd win was 112-105 in OT. With full video of the game it is tough to say much, but Juice Thompson posted 38 points, John Shurna had 26 points, and Drew Crawford had 22. NU has a pretty good top three in those guys. At the center position Luka Mirkovic and Davide Curletti combined for 10 points and 11 rebounds. I still think they'll need to do more for NU to do better than last year in Big Ten, but that's decent enough to win some games. Nick Fruendt also made a big shot, his only one, but maybe he might find a roll. Also, Mike Capocci got the start in the spot that has also gone to Alex Marcotullio and JerShon Cobb.

Today both Thompson and Shurna had off games, yet NU won. That's a very strong sign this might be a pretty good team. Drew Crawford netted 21 points, but the big story was JerShon Cobb with 16 points. I think Cobb will make a lot of big plays for NU and it was nice to see him near the top of the stat sheet. Mirkovic and Curletti didn't do much on offense, but Mirkovic got 10 rebounds and Ivan Peljusic had seven. Alex Marcotullio also had a big day with 17 points and 5 rebounds. He seems to know how to find the ball.

NU will go back home and wait for the start of the regular season.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

NU is 2-0, but still has work to do.

So I’d written a bunch about this and then my computer crashed and I lost what I wrote, but I’ll try to recap.

NU’s now 2-0 on the trip through Italy. Not surprisingly John Shurna leads the team in points and rebounds. Shurna posted 27 points and 9 rebounds today and on Monday had 17 and 4. Juice Thompson scored 22 today after a slow game on Monday. NU’s other leader, Drew Crawford, has made it into double figures both games with 16 points on Monday and 11 in today’s victory. From looking at the stats I like the fact that Coach Carmody is using a variety of players. I don’t know if Mike Capocci and Ivan Peljusic will get as much action in real games as they have thus far, but perhaps every minute they play could make Carmody more comfortable in using them. Nick Fruendt also seemed to be on the court a fair amount during the highlights posted at If he can not turn the ball over he offers another potential outside shooter, which might be critical given NU’s struggles at the center spot.

It is the center spot which thus far seems to be NU’s biggest issue on the trip. Luka Mirkovic has a total of 3 points and 8 rebounds in two games and Davide Curletti has 11 points and 9 rebounds in his two games. Mirkovic has clearly put on some muscle, which is great, but he needs to find a way to consistently assert himself down in the post. If he doesn’t NU is missing a key aspect in making them an NCAA Tournament team. Now, without seeing the whole game it’s hard to judge defensive contributions. I think Curletti is a good defensive player and he might be doing a great job, but NU can’t just rely on outside shooting. Yes, the ‘Cats have good shooters, but at times they will miss.

Another observation from the stats is that JerShon Cobb hasn’t really made a major impact yet. Fans are counting on Cobb to be a major contributor, but he only made 2-of-10 shots today. Still, Coach Carmody did have enough confidence in JerShon to give him a start and I remember it took Drew Crawford a little bit to get going last year. When JerShon gets going I expect we’ll see a very solid player.

Alex Marcotullio seems to have benefited from his summer work as he’s scored 11 and 8 respectively and has been good from three.

I encourage everyone to check out the highlights from at: